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Do You Really Just Use 10% of Your Brain?

Do You Really Just Use 10% of Your Brain?

In the movie Limitless, Bradley Cooper pops a pill that lets him tap into the supposed dormant 90 percent of his brain. It allows him to pick winning stocks, speak foreign languages, play the piano like a virtuoso, and even defend himself against muggers by instantly recalling and expertly executing Kung Fu moves he’d seen on TV. In the upcoming Lucy, Scarlett Johansson taps into the dormant 90 percent of her brain by popping a pill that gives her telepathic, telekinetic and shape-shifting powers.

This begs the question: Do we really only use just 10 percent of our intricate grey matter?

Undeniably, the human brain has evolved to become a highly complex organ made up of nearly 100 billion neurons. A few noteworthy individuals have postulated–including Albert Einstein and Margaret Mead–that we only use a fraction of all this brainpower. The truth is, there simply are no scientific studies to back this up.

Some trace this myth to American psychologist William James who observed that the average person rarely reaches their full potential. This broad thought was eventually interpolated by psychics, mystics and science fiction writers as a “vacuum in cranial use.”

In truth, modern-day brain scans reveal that most of our brains are constantly active. And while it’s true that some areas are busier at any given time than others, no part of the brain ever just sits in idle mode. In other words, our brains are normally “firing on all cylinders.” According to Eric H. Chudler, PhD, there is no scientific evidence to suggest we only use just 10 percent of our brains.

Yet somehow, with the help of science fiction films and TV shows, the myth lives on. A recent study published in the Journal of Psychology found that college psychology majors, who you’d expect could separate fact from fiction, believed the 10 percent myth to have some validity. A non-scientific internet poll noted that 52 percent of respondents believed that humans use only 10 percent of their brain.

One final thought: If we only needed 10 percent of our brain to survive, why would we have evolved with 90 percent of this mass, which draws 20 percent of our supply of oxygen and glucose?


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Alex A. Kecskes

As owner/president of AK CreativeWorks, Alex A. Kecskes is a national award-winning writer/blogger/journalist who has written over 2,000 published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, careers, consumer tech, arts/entertainment and many other topics. He also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients. Follow Alex on twitter at


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11:30AM PDT on Aug 7, 2014

Its not just a matter of how many percent of the brain your using. Its also a matter of what you are using it for. Are we using our brains or are our brains using us and we are just along for the ride.

7:25AM PDT on Aug 4, 2014

LOL....great topic!!

2:11AM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

??? doing my best to use more

1:16AM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

Thanks for sharing

2:06PM PDT on Jul 31, 2014

this would be a great topic for a debate in school! I would love to see a college have a debate on this, I would pay to go see that one! Me personally, I can see both sides of it. I'm 53 and I guess I'm on the fence with this subject, which is why I'd gladly go to a debate and see who swings me to their side!!!

4:01AM PDT on Jul 30, 2014


8:14AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Lone W: I think you need to read the article again. You and I are on the same page. As I note in my article: "modern-day brain scans reveal that most of our brains are constantly active. And while it’s true that some areas are busier at any given time than others, no part of the brain ever just sits in idle mode."
Further, I interviewed and wrote and entire 1,000 word article for Long Beach Memorial Hospital about a young girl who is surviving with half her brain removed.

7:52AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

This is what bothers me about the listed movies, when I might otherwise enjoy their science fiction thriller stories.

6:37AM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

If 10% were enough to get our bodies working (even those parts we're not aware of) and thinking, etc, our brains had to be huge!

5:11AM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

I think the author of this article missed the point. It is not that a person uses only a certain 10% of its brain allits life. What happens, and the 10% is only an average of activity at a given time, is that we only need to use about 10% of the brain to get on with our lives. Different regions are active as needed, but others are held in reserve. Why we need the other 90%? Well in addition to what I just mentioned, consider this. A person can have half its brain removed, and with time, recover all of their functions.When this has to be done in babies, they grow up to have perfect neurological and intelectual functions. Is that not a good reason to have excess brain mass?

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